Car dealerships have a bad reputation. That’s not a secret; we’ve all heard the jokes about sleazy salesmen and horror stories about bad loans and worse service. And for some of us, it seems like you just shouldn’t use them at all. But can you cut the dealership out of the equation?
Deals, Deals, Deals
The answer is … somewhat, although you will interact with them at least a little bit. First of all, you can always buy cars from a private seller, but that’s a route that has its own pitfalls; there are plenty of crooks in the classifieds. The fact is, the way that we buy and sell cars makes it all but impossible to cut a dealership completely out the equation, so one way or the other, you’re working with a dealership.
But you can limit how much you interact with a dealership and not even speak to a salesperson at all, if you play it right. How? By using the Internet. Almost every dealership now has their inventory, new and used online. You can find cars, test drive them, determine the value of your trade-in, and even buy a car, all with a minimum of fuss.
Car-Buying Online, Step By Step
Look up the value of your trade-in, if you have one. This information is easily found online, but remember: You’ll need to have a mechanic look over your car for any trade-in, and the dealership will likely insist it will be done on site.
Do your research. Find the car that’s right for your needs, and make a point of having a few different manufacturers on your list. This will tell you what’s available locally and what a dealership is charging for a car in your area; this can vary locally depending on a few factors. Remember: If there’s not a vehicle identification number, or VIN, next to a car, the dealership doesn’t have one, no matter what their website might insist.
Secure your financing. When buying a car, you should always know how you’re paying for it before you buy it. Many of us forget that we’re “buying” a car loan, where the interest we’re charged is the price we pay. You wouldn’t buy the first car you come across, so shop around, look at quotes, secure financing, and then start shopping.
Contact the dealership via email. Explain what you’re looking for and set up a test drive. Make it clear you won’t be buying, and make a point of insisting you’ve got to leave right after the drive. True or not, it’ll limit attempts to get you to buy.
Get an itemized quote for the car via email. If they won’t give you an itemized quote, don’t buy. Similarly, look it over and challenge any possible issues like “rustproofing” or fees that don’t line up with your research. Finally, never tell them the monthly payment you want to hit; look at the total cost of the car.
Bring your car in to trade when you settle on a price, sign, and drive away in your car.
Yes, it’s really that simple. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?